Artists have been making their voices heard more loudly on a range of issues around music and tech in recent years, from streaming royalties to social-media pressures. The former is the focus for a new report published by International Artist Organisation (IAO) this month, and unveiled at last week’s by:Larm conference in Norway.
It’s the work of Swedish researcher Daniel Johansson, based on a survey of 200 professional artists in Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They were asked for their views on streaming royalties; current payout models; deals with labels and DIY artists; collecting societies and other issues.
You can read the full 42-page report here. Among the key findings: 69.5% of the artists surveyed are ‘very dissatisfied’ with their current revenues from streaming, while another 17.5% are ‘somewhat dissatisfied’. So that’s 87% unhappy overall. For context, 74% of the artists surveyed were DIY rather than signed to a label, and 76% said they had earned less than €1k from streaming in 2021.
There’s an obvious caveat here, and the report faces it head-on. It notes that “there is a possibility that respondents that have a negative view also have a higher participation rate than respondents that are not as emotionally connected to the subject… the sample of respondents might be somewhat skewed towards performers that have a negative view on streaming and the digital music economy in general.”
It’s certainly a picture of disgruntlement: only 4.5% of surveyed artists expect their streaming revenues to increase substantially in the next year, and 8% for them to somewhat increase. In contrast, 21.5% expect them to decrease substantially, and 20.5% to decrease somewhat.
The survey found strong support for equitable remuneration – “an obligatory royalty collected and distributed by collecting societies” from DSPs for artists – and found only 6% of artists saying the current ‘pro rata’ model of streaming payouts is fair, versus 75.5% who think it’s unfair. 57% think their revenues would increase under a user-centric system.
Here, too, the report does not swerve the follow-on challenges from these views. “Just as an unwaivable equitable remuneration right can not solve all problems, a usercentric royalty scheme will not either. For someone to gain streaming revenues, someone else has to lose,” wrote Johansson, before reviewing the publicly-available research on these models.
In short: the report offers a good snapshot of artist dissatisfaction; suggests ER and user-centric payouts as part of the potential solution rather than an entire quick fix; and sets out the challenges and unanswered questions around both rather than simply demanding they be implemented.
It’s well worth a read, and while a sample of 200 artists is relatively small, IAO’s plan to expand the survey’s scope in 2023 is a sensible and welcome step too.
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